You may not recognize Jack Bender’s name, but there’s a good chance you’ve seen some of his television work. Over the past 15 years, Bender has directed episodes of Felicity, Judging Amy, Alias, The Sopranos, Alphas, and Alcatraz. However, his most prolific stint to date was on Lost, where he directed some 37 episodes – and served as a co-showrunner throughout the show’s original run.
Bender was attached to direct Paramount’s Jack Ryan reboot last year, but has since passed on the gestating project (and was replaced by Kenneth Branagh). That may be for the best, as Bender is now working on Devolution: a film that could be more up his alley, judging by the writing talent involved.
Heat Vision reports that details on Devolution are being kept under wraps, but that “the pedigree is all genre.” That’s a reference to the fact that World War Z author Max Brooks came up with the original idea. In addition, the script is being penned by David Leslie Johnson – who’s previously written in such sub-genres as “evil child” horror (Orphan), supernatural murder mystery (Red Riding Hood), zombie horror (the Walking Dead TV series), and mythological epic (Wrath of the Titans). Going off that collective resume: it’s a fair bet that Devolution will have monster horror elements, along with material that walks the often-fine line between sci-fi and fantasy.
Paramount’s World War Z movie has been plagued with rewrites and reshoots. Early signs indicate the film’s significant departure from the narrative for Brooks’ source material may be partially to blame. By contrast, Brooks – who was not involved with scripting the WWZ adaptation, mind you – is becoming a bigger player around Hollywood. Devolution is one of two major projects in development based on an idea from Brooks (the other being Edward Zwick’s The Great Wall).
Bender’s feature-length directing record isn’t so shiny as his TV resume (Child’s Play 3, Lone Justice 2), but he has plenty of experience working on television series that boast close-to-cinematic production values. Johnson is a screenwriter who’s served up some interesting twists, while working within the confines of some pretty restrictive story requirements - Red Riding Hood, for example, was a fairy tale retelling clearly mandated to appeal directly to the “Twilight demographic”.
That’s all to say: it’ll be interesting to see what Bender and Johnson come up with, now that they have more freedom (and an idea from Brooks for inspiration).
We’ll keep you updated on Devolution as the story develops.